The debate: Trump’s demons out of control

Trump is actually exceptionally intelligent. His glibness, ability to spin the blarney, is prodigious. Unfortunately, he is also mentally ill.

One commentator used the word “strategy” in questioning Trump’s debate performance. That’s a mistake ubiquitous from the start of the Trump saga. He is never guided by any “strategy,” but instead by his demons. His mental illness was on full display in the debate. Nobody who gave any serious thought to actually attracting support would have behaved that way. But among Trump’s demons is the need to feel he’s strong and tough and infallible. And those demons are out of control; there are no limits.

Thus, one voter on a CNN panel said she agreed with much of what Trump was saying, but his vicious performance repelled her. Another woman was quoted saying her schoolgirl daughter, watching, ran from the room in tears. Joining me for part of it was a student from Somaliland, who couldn’t believe an American president behaving that way. Somaliland’s president (whom I’ve met) certainly wouldn’t. Talk about shit-hole countries. Trump’s debate horror-show utterly disgraced America.

I was not thrilled by Biden’s performance, often wishing I’d been standing there in his place. Like when Trump, about the Supreme Court appointment, insisted he’d been elected for a full four years, Biden never mentioned Republicans’ refusal to apply that principle in Obama’s case, with Merrick Garland. When discussing protests, violence, and law-and-order, I’d have pointed out Trump’s actually defending a vigilante fan of his who travelled to Kenosha with a gun and killed two people. And regarding mail ballots, Biden never said it’s Trump who wants to rig the election, by throwing out legitimate ballots and keeping power regardless.

But all this points up the stark contrast of character between the two. No, Biden does not have Trump’s instinct for the jugular. Biden is a genuinely humble, soft-spoken, mild-mannered human being with a deep heart and soul. So he was no firecracker in the debate. (He did tell Trump to “shut up,” called him a liar, and the worst president in history — good for him — though all spoken mildly.) But this debate should finally put to bed all the nonsense about Biden’s mental capacity.

He is also an honest person. On points, Trump might have massively won the debate. But that’s easy to do if you’re completely unconstrained by factual reality, and can just make up anything in answer to anything. That Trump did massively, from start to finish. CNN’s fact check guy had his hands full. He did say Biden misstated a few facts (on at least one, regarding trade deficits, I think Biden was actually correct), but in Trump’s case, Boy-Oh-Boy. One wee point: Trump said Portland’s sheriff supports him. I noticed on social media the sheriff quoted that he’d never support Trump.

When it came to the latest revelations that he paid only $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, he simply lied. He actually had the brass to say that everyone will see, when his returns are released. Which he’s been saying for four years. While of course still refusing to release them. How stupid does he think voters are?

And about the pandemic, claiming his handling of it was fantastic and he’s saved umpteen lives. I don’t have to go through the facts here, it’s just so obvious to anyone living in the actual real world.

But perhaps the scariest lie is Trump’s attack on mail ballots as rife with fraud. He recited a whole string of incidents, and every single one was either a gross distortion or an outright lie. It’s scary because scores of millions of citizens will be voting by mail, and Trump is going for the jugular — of our democracy. His words in the debate clearly presaged resort to violence to remain in power. Which, after this debate, is now surely the only way he can. Already decisively behind, Trump showed what a monster he is. A disaster for his chances.

The headline moment was when Trump was asked to separate himself from white supremacists. He gave a surly (all his answers were surly) refusal. Even brought up “Proud Boys,” a notorious racist group, telling them to “stand back and stand by.” They, and other allied hate groups, immediately rushed online to jubilantly herald Trump’s endorsement, using his quote as a rallying cry.

This shows two things. One, that Trump is racist (as if we didn’t know). And second, he thinks American voters are predominantly racist; not just deep down, but so openly (to themselves) they’ll vote for an openly racist candidate, indeed, support him for that very reason.

He’s wrong. He is mentally ill, living in an alternate universe, and this proves it. He does have that vote. But cannot — must not —win.

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